Exploring the Relationships between Corruption and Tax Revenue

Filed under - Governance

Published on 12 January 2010 as a U4 Helpdesk answer
Has any work been done that suggests a correlation between the level of tax revenue gathered (as a % of GDP) and levels of corruption in country? Both are means of extracting money from the economy - one formal, one informal. Is it the case, for example, that the economy can only bear so much extraction and that therefore if corruption levels rise, tax revenue falls (or vice versa)?


To find out if existing empirical research establishes a negative correlation between levels of corruption in an economy and tax revenue collected.


1. Effects of Corruption on Tax Revenue
2. Effects of Taxation on Corruption
3. Further Reading


A review of literature indicates that corruption has a significant negative impact on the levels of tax revenue collected in a country. The current understanding of the correlation between corruption and tax revenue however is incomplete since there is insufficient information available on the impact of taxation on corruption.

Corruption not only lowers the tax-GDP ratio but also causes long-term damage to the economy by detracting investment, increasing the size of the informal economy, distorting tax structures and corroding the tax morality of taxpayers. All of these in turn further reduce the long term revenue generating potential of the economy.

The impact of taxation on corruption is less explored in the existing research literature. The little information that was found indicates that higher tax rates can induce more corruption in an economy by incentivising tax evasion. Some scholars argue that corruption can mitigate the burdens of excessive taxation on the economy through enabling better allocation of resources and enabling investment. However, the underlying assumptions of these findings have been challenged by other researchers. It is recommended that more empirical research is carried out to better understand the impacts of taxation on corruption.

Author(s): Farzana Nawaz, Transparency International, fnawaz@transparency.org
Reviewed by: Robin Hodess, Ph.D., Transparency International, rhodess@transparency.org
Publication date: 12 January 2010
Number: 228

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Country / Territory - International   
Region - Global   
Language(s) - English   
Topic - Accountability   |   Governance   
Tags - Taxation   |   Tax revenue   |   GDP   

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